SEQUIM — Owners of the Sequim Bee Farm are looking for answers after they say vandals poisoned 20 of their hives, killing upward of 300,000 honey bees.
When Buddy Depew, co-owner of the Sequim Bee Farm, first noticed one of the hives outside the fenced part of his property was knocked over a couple of weeks ago, he assumed a bear had gotten into honey. But then he looked closer.
“We knew a bear wouldn’t just stop pushing over with all the honey in the hive,” he said. “I got to looking, and the rest of the hives, the bees, were all gone.”
He found hives without bees but filled with honey still in the honeycombs. Because yellow jackets pilfering honey in the 20 hives died, he believes someone poisoned the bees.
What he doesn’t know is why someone would kill the bees when bees are already struggling, he said, referring to colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees in a colony disappear, a phenomenon not understood by researchers.
“There’s other things that would have hurt a lot less,” Depew said. “These guys we need to try to help along as much as possible because we’ve almost reached the tipping point.”
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office took the report Nov. 21, and at this time, deputies don’t have any suspects or leads, said Sgt. Shaun Minks, adding that one of the department’s “pretty seasoned” deputies had never investigated anything like this.
Minks said the Sequim Bee Farm predicted a loss of $5,000 in profits alone, not counting what it would cost to start up the hives again.
He anticipated the culprit would face criminal mischief charges if caught.
Depew said he has no idea who would have done it.
“I don’t know if it’s kids, I don’t know if it’s someone that just didn’t like bees out here or if someone just didn’t care for what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t know.”
The vandalism cut the number of working hives he and his wife, Meg, have by about half. The 25 remaining active hives are in a fenced area on his property. The vandalized hives were outside the fence.
It’s hard to know how much it will cost to start up another 20 hives, but Depew said it’s going to cost quite a bit.
Once they replace the bees, it’s going to be awhile until they can produce the same amount of honey as an established hive would have, he said.
“That’s going to be a large dip in how much,” he said. “We’re going to have pretty good loss right there.”
The loss comes amid the couple’s plans to expand their business and get closer to their goal of providing honey to local stores, Depew said.
Come spring, they had planned on expanding from 45 hives up to 100 to better meet the needs of the community, he said.
“It’s going to put a little bit of a damper on it,” he said. “If we’re lucky, we can get it up to 75.”
The goal eventually is to get up to 150 hives so that people can buy their honey in stores. The Sequim Bee Farm currently sells its honey at the Sequim Farmers Market and plans to sell at the Port Angeles Farmers Market in the spring, Depew said.
“I hope they are not targeting bees or anything,” he said. “We’ve lost so much of our wild bees. If you go out now and you look at clover and flowers, you don’t see many honeybees.”
Those with any information about the case are asked to call Minks at 360-775-5543.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.